Local scientist to become third Aussie in space

Dr Chris Boshuizen will become just the third Australian to fly into space next month as part of the Blue Origin program.

Dr Chris Boshuizen’s space travel dreams are soon to be realised as the Tumbarumba-born scientist, explorer, entrepreneur, investor, educator, and musician becomes just the third Australian to fly into space.

Dr Boshuizen’s flight is scheduled for October 12, 2021, aboard ‘New Shepard’, one of the Blue Origin launch vehicles, alongside passengers such as Star Trek actor William Shatner . 

Owned and led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the flight will take a total of four people into space, launching from west Texas, USA, and travelling to just above the Kármán Line, the international boundary of space.

For Dr Boshuizen, it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong pursuit.

“I have always wanted to make space travel as easy as catching a bus, and so I am excited to be one of the first passengers,” he said.

“I hope spaceflight becomes cheap enough in the future that everyone can have a chance to look down on the Earth from space.” 

Dr Boshuizen credits early encouragement from ‘amazing’ teachers in Tumbarumba for helping him pursue his passion.

“I think kids anywhere in the world can have amazing dreams for themselves, but what is unique about Australia is that it has a system that supports you,” he said.

“It’s easy to go to Uni if you want to, and while we all like to complain about Centrelink, it is amazing that it exists! Having lived in America for a few years I see how much people suffer when they have $100,000 or more of student debt. It’s crazy! 

“In Australia we are truly fortunate. A lot of what I have done in my life has been supported by the wonderful social support network we have in Australia.

I feel very lucky that I grew up where I did.”

He also thanked the support he had growing up through Scouts and Venturers, which he said “taught me to think of the greater good”.

“Growing up in a small town taught me a lot about independence,” he said.

“We didn’t have everything the bigger towns had, so we had to improvise and learn to be creative with what we had.  Probably the most important though was the wide open skies and the beautiful Milky Way. Camping and seeing the stars when I was kid has inspired me for years.”

With sister Charmaine Wilesmith still in Tumbarumba, and Mum and Dad living in Wagga (though recently traveling as Grey Nomads), Dr Boshuizen said he still felt very much connected to the region. 

“My mum, Francisca, was very pleased to hear the news and – it seems – never doubted I would get here,” he said.

“My dad, John, asked, ‘Why would you go up there?’ to which I responded, ‘Dad, why did you drive to Woop Woop last month?’  

“I got my spirit of exploration from my dad who often took us on long meandering drives around the backroads in the Riverina. His philosophy was to take a different road home than the one you took out, and that is something I still remember to do myself!”

Dr Boshuizen originally thought his path into the skies would be through the Australian Defence Force Academy’s pilot school. When he applied at age 17, he was knocked back when the admissions test found he was partly colourblind. Undeterred, Dr Boshuizen went on to study physics and mathematics at the University of Sydney, finishing his PhD and eventually scoring a position with the NASA Ames Research Centre in California, USA.

At the research centre, Dr Boshuizen was part of a team that created the NASA Phonesat, which utilised smartphone components to build a low-cost orbital satellite. The device – and the potential to re-think space travel – inspired Dr Boshuizen to co-found Planet Labs in 2010. He served as the company’s Chief Technology Officer for five years, launching more than 450 satellites. 

Currently, Dr Boshuizen is a partner at venture capital firm DCVC which aims to help fund and grow startups that are ‘democratizing space flight.’ He’s also a keen musician and DJ, writing and producing music from his home studio in San Francisco and performing as Dr Chrispy. 

Each passenger will take a small cargo bag into space with them containing a few personal items. Dr Boshuizen said his bag will contain, “Mostly tokens of gratitude for the many people who helped me make this happen this year. But also some small treasures for my Mum and sisters. 

“I have also been collecting songs from musicians around the world and will load them up on a USB thumb drive and take them to space – a global space playlist! I also packed a small Australian flag.”

You can follow Chris’s journey to space at https://drchrispy.com